NEW YORK – David Huff lay motionless on the mound for nearly six minutes, struck in the head by Alex Rodriguez’s line drive. His Cleveland teammates gathered nearby, the crowd stood in stunned silence.
“It was very scary,” Indians outfielder Trevor Crowe said. “One of the first times in baseball I was fearful for someone’s life.”
About three hours later, after a negative CT scan at the hospital, the pitcher was back in the clubhouse, smiling with the relieved Indians after their remarkable, come-from-behind 13-11 victory Saturday over the New York Yankees.
As he rode the team bus back to the hotel with his parents and brother, the 25-year-old left-hander got a phone call from A-Rod.
“It was definitely an emotional roller-coaster today,” Indians first baseman Matt LaPorta said.
Rodriguez’s drive hit Huff above the left ear and caromed into right field for an RBI double, a frightening scene in the third inning that shook players on both sides.
Rodriguez put both hands to his helmet as he pulled into second base, and went straight toward the mound.
Huff was face down in the dirt for about 90 seconds, then trainers helped him onto his back. At the urging of the trainers, Huff remained still. He answered their questions and never lost consciousness, nor did he have memory loss. After being placed on a board and fitted with a neck collar, he gave an encouraging thumbs up as he was being carted off the field.
“He’s doing well, we’ll find out more (today),” Indians manager Manny Acta said. “He did not have any concussive symptoms right now.”
LaPorta said Huff had a knot “probably the size of a golf ball,” on his head.
Huff was not available after the game, but was seen in a hallway off-limits to the media.
“He said he’s doing good, a little woozy,” Crowe said. “Very impressive.”
Rodriguez was on his way to the hospital when Yankees spokesman Jason Zillo called him, telling the star that Huff had returned to the stadium.
Zillo said Rodriguez told him in a phone conversation: “Your heart stops. You want so badly to take it back.”
Huff and his parents appreciated Rodriguez’s call, Indians spokesman Bart Swain said.
Down 10-4 in the sixth inning to CC Sabathia, the Indians came back to win in their highest-scoring game of the season.
Lou Marson hit three doubles, including a key shot off Joba Chamberlain (1-3) in a seven-run seventh, and Russell Branyan homered for the second straight day.
Rafael Perez (1-0) pitched an inning in a game that took 4 hours, 22 minutes. Kerry Wood, the last of 12 pitchers the teams combined to use, gave up an RBI double to Derek Jeter in the ninth but finished for his second save.
Yankees reliever Dave Robertson left in midgame because of a mild lower back strain and is day to day.
“Tightness,” Robertson said of the injury. “I just couldn’t finish a pitch out there.”
Huff, however, certainly was the pitcher that most everyone was thinking about.
With runners on first and second and one out in the third, Rodriguez hit a liner that struck Huff. The crowd let out a collective “Oooh,” as Huff fell – the fans would repeat the cry as they watched a replay.
Huff’s teammates and trainers from both teams ran to the mound. Rodriguez took a knee several feet behind the mound and slammed his helmet. He stayed there for about a minute with his head bowed before going to the Yankees dugout.
Huff gave a thumbs up two times and fully extended his arm and waved to the crowd of 49,599, which in turn gave him a sustained ovation as he was driven through the center-field gate to a waiting ambulance.
Trailing 3-0, the Indians scored three runs off Sabathia in the fourth after the Yankees ace appeared spooked by a grounder that bounced off his foot for a single so soon after Huff was struck. Sabathia raised his hands in disbelief, shook his foot and went back to work but struggled with his control.
The Yankees scored six runs off Huff’s replacement, Aaron Laffey, in the bottom half and held a 9-3 lead.
“It was a tough situation to come in,” Laffey said, “but there was no reason to walk three and hit a guy.”
But Cleveland scored runs in the fifth and sixth, then piled on seven more in the seventh against four relievers to take the lead. Marson and Jason Donald hit two-run doubles for an 11-10 lead and Crowe added an RBI single.
“It’s exciting to see (Jason) Donald and Marson contribute. LaPorta, that’s great at-bats,” Acta said. “That’s what we’re envisioning here, get these kids together someday, blend and mesh.”
• WHO: Cleveland at N.Y. Yankees
•TIME: 1:05 p.m.
•WHERE: Yankee Stadium
•PITCHERS: Masterson (0-5, 6.13 ERA) vs. Burnett (5-2, 3.55)
•TV/RADIO: SportsTime Ohio; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM